Thursday, March 21, 2013

Post "Game" Analysis

Months have passed since the press coverage about my 30 Sept 2012 scheduled disciplinary court over my writings and activities as (then) managing editor of MormonThink.comThere were allegations about MT editors planning the entire episode as a means to build controversy and drive traffic to the site.  While this in fact happened, my serving as editor and the controversy of my writings were not focused or primarily intended to create the conflict the church pursued.  Further, there were conspiracy theories that I had in fact outed myself and acted as a sock puppet in order to expose myself to the church so as to entice them to come after me; that I prompted Scott Gordon to forward his concerns about me to "a list of friends, including some who work in the LDS Church Office Building" (Scott’s words in SLtrib). 

The sock puppet theory comes from the claim that the IP address used by the person outing me and messages I posted in my own name were the same. I have never seen the evidence so I can’t verify it.  At this time, I can reveal that a close-relation staying at my residence did apparently discuss me to an individual who I don’t know.  The IP may be the same since there's only one internet connection (and shared computer access).  I do not know if this is the same event as what others have claimed, because I do not have access to the records and data. Now, it isn't helpful to me to spend a lot of time obsessing over it because it is a sore spot and problem for family.  At the time, many requested that I comment on this.  I declined for personal reasons in order to avoid having any close-relations potentially dragged into media spotlight.  Presently, in order to keep things peaceful, I won’t say more on this particular matter nor likely will in the future.  I don’t expect others will agree, but Mormons never were very good about accepting boundaries.

It’s reported that Scott Gordon, President of FAIR, implied that I had in fact pointed the finger at him to the NY Times saying he was the one that outed me.  Scott wrote on his newsletter:
I forwarded the links of that public blog to some of my friends. The New York Times reporter who called said my email was forwarded to Twede’s stake president. I have no way of knowing if that is true or not. I did not speak with any of his local leaders, nor did I send an email to them. I told the reporter it was more likely one of his local ward members had read his public blog and told the stake president, but she insisted I was the source as she heard that from David Twede himself.
  I want to make it clear that I did not direct the NYtimes reporter to Scott Gordon. I mentioned that FAIR had in the past been suspected of hunting down a former MT editor.  But I had no contact with Scott Gordon or any other member of FAIR during the episode.  I never saw any of their correspondence.  Scott Gordon affirmed to the SLtrib basically the same as he told the NYtimes--that he was communicating about me with "a list of friends, including some who work in the LDS Church Office Building."  The Trib also reports that none of Gordon’s contacts were a Mormon general authority, according to the FAIR president’s own claims.   Reporters push you.  They want to get you upset or make you believe that the story is already clear and that you better come clean.  They're just probing, but that's how they do it.  They get all the quotes they can from you and then choose the ones that emphasize the single point they need while ignoring the rest. I suspect that's what Gordon experienced.  Believe me, I had my share of this distasteful practice over and over in Sept-Oct 2012.
(Note: In 2010-2011 I had contact with Brant Gardener, and as far as I know that's the only contact with FAIR I've ever had.)

As such, I do not know specifically how I was outed. There is a great deal of secrecy about how Scott got my name in the first place to circulate it to other friends at the COB.  It could be likely that the initial source is a close-relation. However, the elongated chain of events went from that contact through several steps before it landed at my local stake president’s doorstop.  I had never once met the stake president or even my bishop before the day they hauled me in to interrogate me about my MT activities and to hand me the letter informing me that I was “reported to have been in apostasy”.  They did not witness my apostasy.  It was reported to them.  When I asked who reported me, the counselor in the stake presidency said, “Maybe we are inspired to know these things.”

Previous editors at MT have been outed by something akin to the Strengthening Church Members Committee who informed their local leaders of their activities.  The MT founder reports his experience here:  
These conditions have existed among “apostates” who are publicly vocal about their doubts and have influenced other members.  When the court was scheduled in my case, and in speaking with John Dehlin by phone about it before it was public knowledge, I attempted to reconcile with the stake leaders to circumvent being excommunicated.  They declined to respond and the only response I had, ten days before the scheduled disciplinary court, was that there was nothing I could do or stop doing that would halt the 30 Sept council.  Given the leadership’s determination, several of us at MT and others among my friends suggested that like with Thomas Murphy, media attention postponed his court indefinitely.  We decided to take our case to the media.  We knew that active members would not help us get the case out, so we turned to forums where critics hold out.  While the report somewhat emphasized the Romney angle, it also covered the issue of leaders probing for names and activities at MT, and the leaders insisting I do not publish my views (censorship).  The Media reported only the Romney angle, of course, and the rest is history.

I’m pretty sure Mormon apologists will continually accuse MT of setting up the "game" to slur the church.  They see it as a game, and I guess that makes this blog post-game analysis. The bottom line is that the church does not like alternative points of view that appear critical.  They sometimes choose to use disciplinary courts to quiet critics.  And most often, it works.  When it fails, the church does appear onerous in the eyes of the world for its censor-mentality.  That is laid at the feet of SLC, not at the critics.  If they had left me alone, none of this would have happened and I would have blissfully continued being a “nobody” who had perhaps a less than adoring view of the LDS church.  And probably none of you would be reading this blog.

Another question that I was asked often is whether the church was really disciplining me over my writings about Romney.  I already wrote about this to the best of my knowledge here.  
What I would like to offer now is a little “play-by-play” post analysis in the following partial transcript which I took from my memory immediately at the time I was interrogated for 45 minutes in the Stake President’s office on 16 Sept 2012.  Someday, I will offer more transcript as I am ready to do so.

After introductions and questions about who I am, what I am doing in Orlando, and a discussion about reports that I have written derogatory articles about the church…

Stake president: “We will hold a disciplinary council and ask you to come and explain your views.”

Me: “You’re saying you’re going to have a council against me…already so soon?”

SP:  “Yes, we are.”

Me: What would I have to do to avoid that?

SP: In terms of not having the council?

Me: Yes.

SP: There is nothing you can do.

Me: Really?  It’s going to happen?

SP: (nodding)  It’s going to happen.  (pause)  The council is hopefully a place for you to express and defend the views you’ve been propogating in our midst.

Me: I didn’t do any of that here.  I wrote that off-site.

SP:  You came here, and, it was very derogatory in my opinion what you wrote.  (pause)  So during this disciplinary council which will be held in two weeks—

Me: Two weeks?

SP:  Two weeks.  We will give you the opportunity to defend yourself and what you’ve been writing.

(SP went on to describe the makeup of the disciplinary council the order of the events and how I might be able to defend myself with witnesses and documents.  I was told I could not blast the church or be critical, and that they would stop me if I insisted on being negative.  I asked them if I could take down any content—the Romney pieces, the temple ceremonies at MT, my blog—and if I took it down, would that alter the outcome.  The SP said no, again.)

Me:  This seems very one sided. 

SP: (thoughtful)  This is not a witch-hunt, but we feel an obligation to protect the members of the church from apostates and anti-christs who are contrary to the teachings of the church.  (turning to the bishop)  Bishop would you like to speak?

Bishop:  Yeah, I feel that you’ve been somewhat disingenuous.  Based on your own comments in your blog: “I don’t want to be found out, I need to be careful. I don’t want anyone to know what’s happening.”  Do you see how you coming here being true but you’re showing a different face?

Me: Yes, because I feared that I would get reprisal if somebody learned that I was the managing editor at Mormonthink-dot-com.

Bishop:  But don’t you see that if it is such an honorable and good thing  and you didn’t feel in your heart it was a problem—

Me: I don’t feel in my heart that it is a problem, but I know that others do.

Bishop:  So you knew it was something that the church wouldn’t want you doing.

Me: Sure.  Obviously I do, because the church has a system in place by which they say “do not look at these materials” They believe that members should be very careful what they study and where they go online.  And there’s a reason for that—

Bishop:  But you feared?

Me: I do think the reason I didn’t want my name out there, even though in my heart I believe I am championing the truth as managing editor of mormonthink-dot-com.  I truly  believe that’s what we are doing there.

Stake counselor: Who are the other individuals you work with on MormonThink?

Me: I’m not going to discuss that. 

Stake counselor: Ok, but why would you be so secretive about who you are?

Me: Because of church disciplinary courts.

SC:  It just doesn’t make sense to me.  It’s almost like “I’ve got a secret, I’m going to hide it.” It just doesn’t make sense—you say you’re for the truth but you won’t say who’s behind the truth.  It’s like putting something out there but not the person putting it out there.  If people are truly interested in truth, as you say they are, then why would they hide their name or who they are?

Me: You remember that Joseph Smith used code names for the revelations in the D&C and the founders used anonymity in the federalist papers? But the truth behind the federalist papers is not less valid just because they hid their names. 

SP: But Joseph Smith feared for his life and he had real reason to fear.  Your life is not in jeopardy.

Me:  People can lose more than the life of the body.  They can lose family, friends, business associates and more social connections if they dare come out as a church critic.  There are different ways to lose one’s life by stamping your name to controversial subjects. 

SC: But there are no modern Danites.

Me:  There’s a saying: If you want to know who controls you, think of who you don’t dare criticize.  I think a lot of members inside fear the Mormon church.

Them: (Laughter)

(I’ll put up more later.)

Two of us editors from MT attending my ward on 30 Sept 2012,
the day scheduled for my disciplinary court.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

There's a Tiger in the Mountain West

(Editor note: I have added another important case to the study below)

Do Mormon members really have the ability to sway God and his anointed?

If the LDS church is truly run by revelation given to inspired prophets that have dedicated their long lives to humble devotion to the Lord, then one would expect them to be very in-tune with God’s will. Mistakes will be made, but the Lord would let them know before the common member, would he not?

(In fact, the doctrine is just that, as stated in OD-1: "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray.")

Recently the LDS church has reported changes in doctrine, policy and interpretation of its history.  Four of these are particularly interesting.  I’ve commented on two of these in the past, including:

1 – The declaration that the discrimination against black members was unfounded and not doctrinal.  The official canon heading language goes:
"Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice."

The press release about this goes:
"It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago...We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church."

2 – The soft-pedaling on how Joseph Smith translates ancient documents, particularly the Book of Abraham.  In the past, the church undeniably characterized Smith’s translation of the Egyptian on the so-called Book of Abraham papyri as a direct translation of a book written by the hand of the Patriarch himself.  The latest change to the book’s introduction inserts the thought that in fact, it was merely an inspired work, not a strict translation.

Both of these changes come after a near continual (minority) onslaught from a vocal wing of progressive members and ex-members for the church to come clean on the issues surrounding these controversies.  The church discreetly listened and, quietly without acknowledging that they listened, made subtle changes or comments to soften former approaches to race issues and claims on Smith’s linguistic capabilities.

3 – A third change that seems to be driven by outside pressure is the changing of how the LDS church views members with same-sex attraction.  Until only in recent years, church leaders had expressed a concern that even the mere presence of attraction for the same sex was sin (a lie and of the devil, said they).  The current sitting and senior Apostle, Boyd K Packer, has said:

There is a falsehood that some are born with an attraction to their own kind, with nothing they can do about it. They are just 'that way' and can only yield to those desires. It is a malicious and destructive lie. While it is a convincing idea to some, it is of the devil. No one is locked into that kind of life... Boys are to become men – masculine, manly men – ultimately to become husbands and fathers. ("To Young Men Only")

The LDS affiliated program Evergreen from the 1980-1990s was an example of the mindset.  However, due to pressure from 10's of thousands of LDS members, many who have family or friends with same-sex attraction, policy and viewpoints have changed in the church.  Pressure from the world at large to accept gay marriage even seems to have spawned a "SSA favorable" (at first glance) website sponsored directly by the church ( ).  While the church still backs banning gay marriage, they now admit "the [same-sex] attraction itself is not a sin".  This transformation happened in a short few years.

4 – The fourth change I mentioned?  Back in January, there was a push by members (especially females) to allow the sisters to pray in general conference.  Now, a couple of weeks before conference, the church has tipped its hat at allowing women to pray in its general meetings.  Again, pressure from the outside is changing divine (or not divine) policy that has been in-place since its founding. 

Why did it take near protests to get the change? 

In the past, the issue of racism and of completely fallacious translation has been the sore spot of not just individual protest, but of mass resignations.  Resignations of members have increased in recent years.   John Dehlin performed far-reaching surveys on ex Mormons and found that the reasons for leaving are not what most members think.  The Book of Abraham issue and race issue top the list, as well as issues on the Book of Mormon DNA or other archaeology concerns.  The church is listening quietly and seeing that when they leave the response to FAIR or other organizations, it is not satisfying members.  They want change, not elaborate discombobulating papers from Daniel C Peterson or  Scott Gordon.

The SL Tribune reports that one of the women who led the “Let Women Pray” drive for change, Analisa Estrada, said "It’s the kind of thing that came out of a lot of personal prayers on part of the organizers and the letter writers."

Does this mean that until now Heavenly Father has been waiting to see just how earnestly and prayerfully women wanted to pray in general meetings? Does this mean that the women 183 years in the church’s past were just not earnest enough?  It’s not like the doctrine and policies are subject to the whims and pressures of common members, right?  Because the LDS church is run by Jesus Christ through his prophet Thomas S Monson.

Anyone thinking a little more about this will realize that most of the controversial changes of the past half-century were due to pressures from below.  Members are actually guiding the church now.  They have the power because they have voted with their feet and resignation letters.  Tithing drops when the members cast against the brethren in quiet foottreads and keyboard pecking.  The brethren are listening.

What will the members come up with next?  Pants for women at church?  Bishops with beards? 

Many hope that they push for substantive change that will actually alter the course of the church from its racist, sexist, defamatory and narrow-minded viewpoint; rather than just the appearance the church makes in public.  So far, while encouraging, the members aren’t asking (with SSA as an exception) for meaningful change.  But give them time. I think there’s a tiger in the mountain west, and it ain’t no cougar.

If members ever do realize the power they have and exercise it, it will be a tipping point.  They will find that with that power comes the demise of their delusion that God is in control of the church through the prophet.  At that tipping point, more of them will want change because they will realize they guide the church. And so goes the feedback...

...Members will begin seeing that the LDS church is a glass jaw bully.

  • Round 1. A small protest changed a small policy on women praying.
  • Round 2. A well organized campaign can change celestial doctrine about what couples can be "married in heaven".
  • Round 3. Members realize the LDS church has a glass jaw and the leaders are nothing more than blowup punching clowns with sand in their feet.
  • Round 4. The members finally realize that the temple worthiness question about sustaining the leaders as prophets is ridiculous.
  • And then for the knock out...

Change is on the horizon. Does it bode uncertainy or good tidings?
Some believe it would be better that the LDS church not change and
sink itself in a morass of antiquated views.

Monday, March 4, 2013


Last Friday, the LDS church announced a newly released digital edition of the LDS canon, which includes "adjustments" (as they call them).  Many have called the changes a bomb detonated to revise history, especially on troubling issues such as racism and polygamy.

The reason for the changes?  The first paragraph of official discussion on the "adjustments" says this:

"The current printing masters of the 1979 edition of the King James Version of the Bible and the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price have deteriorated because of age and long use. The quality of the typeface is no longer as clear and sharp as it should be. Therefore, in the process of preparing new printing masters, the Church has taken the opportunity to make adjustments."
(See )

Printing masters? In the digital age of desktop publishing they actually expect us to believe they had to do this because they were losing the printing masters?

The LDS church has all its scriptures, guides, footnotes, headings and more online, in digital format. When newspapers can daily transfer digital editions to printing masters for bulk volume, rapid prints, the church's reasoning that it was deteriorating printing masters looks like a ... lame excuse.

So why did the church take the "printing master" change-out opportunity to make "adjustments"? 

Late last year, I posted a blog called the Infallible FAIL! which highlighted how the Mormon church's position on why they engaged in racist doctrinal practices in the past is a huge chasm to their claim of divine revelation.  I will repeat a little of it again here.

One of the most significant 2013 edition changes is the heading to the Official Declaration 2, which states the following:

"Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice."

But then, in the preceding Official Declaration 1 are these words:

"The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray. "
It is also taught in official church manuals.

Preceding the O.D.2 heading change on racism, in 2012, the church released a press statement that read: "It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago...We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church."

This statement and the one in O.D.2 on racism are very profound.  They, together with the statement in O.D.1, that the prophet not permitted to lead the church astray, tacitly admits that the previous statement, that the Lord won’t allow a prophet to lead the members astray, is false.  For nearly 150 years the prophets have led the people astray with racist policies and the current prophet administration does not know why this happened, they just know firmly, racism is wrong.  That repudiation of the former policy, of hundreds of statements made by Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, Bruce McConkie, and many more effectively opens the gate to an understanding that the current administrating prophets could be absolutely dead wrong on policies they have in place currently.

The other most interesting changes which many have already noted are those that change the headings. Removing the History of the Church references in the D&C reduces the influence of Joseph Smith's journal on the official history and allows them to keep sliding down history revisionism.

The other change is the Book of Abraham Introduction, from:

"A Translation of some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt. The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus."
“An inspired translation of the writings of Abraham. Joseph Smith began the translation in 1835 after obtaining some Egyptian papyri.”

They no longer admit, as Joseph Smith wrote in History of the Church, that it was written by the hand of Abraham. (History of the Church, 2:235–36, 348–51).  Rather, it is an "inspired" translation.  This is an obvious migration to one of the several solutions advanced by LDS apologists to overcome the deficit on the proven inability of Joseph Smith to actually translate Egyptian.  Instead of claiming that Smith literally translated off of the actual papyri, the church appears to be evolving the story to one where Smith was inspired by the papryi, which acted as catalyst for an inspired account of Abraham's tale.  It's actually a very clever, almost underhanded move. 

The church leaders know they cannot directly, humbly address the concerns of members and critics who find the official claim of origins of the Book of Abraham highly suspect.  They are now addressing them through a sliding of words that help re-define history, removing references to the source of these issues (the History of Church by Joseph Smith) and claiming that these changes are just minor necessary adjustments needed as the printing masters have aged.

In any case, the church is moving further from Joseph's claims about his "inspired translation" or revelation. I don't believe they will ever be able to completely remove Joseph Smith from the church, but this goes a long ways toward the beginning of marginalizing him.

My view is that LDS church leaders know that an onslaught of members have serious concerns, which cannot be addressed, mostly surrounding Joseph Smith. However, as is almost always seen in typical con-men modus operandi, they don't admit in humble honesty that Joseph Smith was an arrogant dictating opportunist, but rather try to carefully and slowly alter the equation without admission. They change without really admitting why they change. For as long as they can, they deny deny deny, but if forced, they change the problem without a lot of admission.

The LDS church treats history like a canal boat. 
They can raise the water or lower it at will, allowing
some claims passage and others to be dry-docked.